Latest F1 news in brief – Tuesday (Update)

UPDATE Updates shown in red below.

05/13/14

  • Mateschitz still thinks Red Bull can catch Mercedes this year. Wishful thinking Dietrich.

    Teams' cost saving proposals 'ridiculous' – Todt

  • Red Bull not giving up 2014 battle – Mateschitz
  • Barcelona begins talks for F1 deal through 2026
  • 'No one' ready to succeed Ecclestone – Mateschitz
  • Red Bull to assess 2014 chase in Austria – Marko
  • Rosberg coping with Hamilton's dominance – Wolff
  • Massa 'not worried' about latest criticism
  • Vettel thinks chassis change helped in Spain
  • McLaren may test Honda power in 2014
  • Mattiacci: We have to step up a gear immediately New
  • Smedley calls for Massa investigation New
  • No reason to cancel Russia GP – Todt New
  • Witness backs bribery claims in Ecclestone trial New
  • Mateschitz doubts Red Bull can catch Mercedes New

Teams' cost saving proposals 'ridiculous' – Todt
(GMM) Jean Todt has slammed as "a joke" the initial cost-saving proposals put forward by formula one teams.

The powerful 'Strategy Group' teams vetoed the FIA president's plans for mandatory budget caps beginning next year, instead arguing that costs can be alternatively reduced through the sporting and technical regulations.

Todt, however, said whilst attending the weekend's Spanish grand prix that the teams' initial proposals were "ridiculous".

"We know they have budgets of between 100 and 400 million and the proposal they seem happy with is to reduce by two million," he said.

"What was proposed was a joke."

Todt said his aim is to see teams' annual spend reduced in the order of 30 to 40 per cent.

"We will meet all of the people again. Hopefully they are sensible people and they come up with some sensible suggestions," he added.

Red Bull not giving up 2014 battle – Mateschitz
(GMM) Red Bull will not give up the battle for the 2014 title.

That is the reigning world champions' order straight from the top, despite some predicting that Mercedes' can achieve the unprecedented feat of winning every single grand prix this season.

Red Bull mogul Dietrich Mateschitz, however, wants the Milton Keynes team to keep fighting.

"Our first goal is that we become capable of winning this year," he told APA news agency.

"If we can be competitive then, as long as it is mathematically possible, we are still in the world championship fight — definitely," the Austrian billionaire added.

Mateschitz acknowledged that a lot depends on Red Bull's beleaguered engine supplier, Renault, and other factors as well.

"A new fuel," he explained, "can bring up to 20 or 30 horse power.

"We have never had the most powerful engine, but a good package overall. Perhaps the grand prix of Austria can be a turning point," said Mateschitz, whose company is the promoter of his country's return in June to the F1 calendar.

"We have a good car," he said. "We started two seconds behind but it is looking much better now."

At the very top of his game in 2014 has been Red Bull team newcomer Daniel Ricciardo, with Mateschitz admitting the extent of the Australian's success was a "surprise".

"Sebastian Vettel has had a lot of bad luck this year," he told Salzburger Nachrichten, "but Daniel has shown no weaknesses from day one.

"This also shows that Toro Rosso is an excellent school for producing future winning drivers, and the very next contender is Daniil Kvyat," Mateschitz added.

Barcelona begins talks for F1 deal through 2026
(GMM) Talks about the long-term future of the Spanish grand prix reportedly kicked off last weekend.

Although the Circuit de Catalunya's existing contract runs until 2016, El Mundo Deportivo reports that a new ten-year deal through 2026 is now being discussed.

The preliminary talks in Barcelona were reportedly between F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone and Catalonian president Artur Mas, Spanish correspondent Elvira Gonzalez reported.

Gonzalez said a race-day crowd of more than 91,000 attended Sunday's Spanish grand prix, more than any other European round on the calendar except Silverstone.

'No one' ready to succeed Ecclestone – Mateschitz
(GMM) Dietrich Mateschitz claims formula one is staring into the abyss.

On Tuesday, F1's long-time chief executive and 'supremo' Bernie Ecclestone will be back in a Munich courtroom, battling for his future and freedom over the Gerhard Gribkowsky bribery affair.

Mateschitz, the billionaire founder of Red Bull, said he is worried about F1's future in the event the sport needs to plan ahead without the diminutive Briton.

"It is very difficult to find someone who can carry on with formula one (after Ecclestone) on both the sporting and financial side," he told the Austrian newspaper Salzburger Nachrichten.

"At the moment I know of no one," Mateschitz admitted.

Red Bull to assess 2014 chase in Austria – Marko
(GMM) Red Bull will take stock of the 2014 season after its home race in Austria next month.

That is the claim of the energy drink company's Dr Helmut Marko, despite team owner Dietrich Mateschitz insisting Red Bull will keep pushing for the title.

Mercedes has easily won the opening five grands prix of 2014, but Red Bull's rate of improvement since a disastrous winter season has also been impressive.

"The grand prix of Austria is a benchmark," Marko, referring to the June 22 race at the renovated Red Bull-Ring, is quoted by APA news agency.

"By then we will have all the parameters with the engine all together," he added.

"Then we'll see how things look."

Red Bull has made no secret that it regards its RB10 car as a championship winner, with the only missing link being the deficiencies of the Renault engine.

The French marque, however, insists it is rapidly catching up.

"I'd say we are about 90 per cent of the way on our recovery now, with final refinements to come," Remi Taffin said after the weekend's Spanish grand prix.

For the moment, Red Bull is ruling out a change of engine supplier.

"Change to who?" team owner Mateschitz said when asked the question. "We currently have no alternatives, and the contracts with Renault are long term."

So Red Bull is pushing ahead with its French partner, he explained.

"I hope that by mid-season we succeed to some extent in making Mercedes' lead at least no longer unassailable," said Mateschitz. "As always, hope dies last!"

Rosberg coping with Hamilton's dominance – Wolff
(GMM) Their battles may be played out on the track, but Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg are also waging a war of the minds in 2014.

One silver-clad driver or the other will almost certainly be crowned this year's champion, and so far the ultra-dominant Brackley team's management is giving them a free run to go wheel-to-wheel.

"We are cautiously optimistic," said team boss Toto Wolff. "Perhaps more optimistic than cautious at the moment!"

Briton Hamilton currently has the upper hand, having won four of the five grands prix so far and finally taking the championship lead from Rosberg in Spain.

Some believe it is a major psychological blow for the German.

"Break me down mentally?" Rosberg hit back when asked if Hamilton's superiority is getting to him.

"I think he will struggle with that one."

Hamilton, six months older than Rosberg, is often credited as perhaps the naturally fastest driver on the F1 grid, while it is said that Rosberg's speed is more analytically crafted.

"They are different characters," Wolff told the APA news agency.

"Lewis has instinct and merciless speed," said the Austrian. "Nico's preparation is meticulous. He has a great understanding of the car and is fascinated by the data."

But Wolff said Hamilton also does not neglect the hard work off-track.

"He has become an incredibly hard worker," he said. "This year even more than last. I think everything has now taken a higher priority."

However, Wolff said Hamilton's character has another side.

"He is incredibly sensitive to criticism," he explained, "with strong reactions. But this is also why he drives as he does."

Team chairman Niki Lauda said after Hamilton's Barcelona win that the 29-year-old Briton is currently "unbeatable".

Earlier, 1992 world champion Nigel Mansell hailed Hamilton's 2014 form as "close to perfection".

Rosberg replied: "Lewis is just a human, with strengths and weaknesses. And I know what I can do."

Some predict that Hamilton's advantage may eventually get to Rosberg, but Wolff is not so sure.

"He (Rosberg) has no problem dealing with the situation," Wolff is quoted by Speed Week.

"Of course he is disappointed to finish second behind his teammate, but I have no doubt that they will both have their triumphs against one another," he added.

Massa 'not worried' about latest criticism
(GMM) Felipe Massa insists he is not fazed by the latest round of criticism.

The Brazilian was often under fire as a Ferrari driver, but for 2014 he switched to Williams where he relished the chance to be a de-facto 'number 1'.

In Spain last weekend, however, Massa qualified ninth while his young teammate Valtteri Bottas made the headlines with his impressive run to fourth.

And in the race, the 33-year-old struggled even more, and he was lapped and out of the points as Finn Bottas, 24, finished fifth.

Once again, Massa is facing criticism, but he told Brazil's Totalrace: "I'm not the least bit worried.

"The focus is on the next race and doing a better job. I'm used to the pressure," he added.

He said the Grove based team is currently looking into why his tire wear was much higher than expected in Barcelona.

"I think the only change was the temperature," said Massa. "With the colder track, something did not work for me."

Vettel thinks chassis change helped in Spain
(GMM) Sebastian Vettel thinks his 'new' chassis helped him to pull out of his 2014 crisis.

Until Barcelona, the reigning quadruple world champion has struggled at the wheel of his original RB10 car, affectionately nicknamed 'Suzie' by the German.

So, with Dr Helmut Marko fearing a chassis crack, Red Bull reverted as a precaution to its winter testing monocoque for Vettel to drive in Spain and beyond.

Although grappling with nightmarish reliability for most of the weekend, Vettel ultimately scythed through the field in the race, declaring afterwards: "I feel like I have a car in my hands again."

Asked by Germany's Auto Motor und Sport if he thinks the chassis change was key, Vettel agreed: "I do think it made a difference.

"At least the question mark went away," he added, referring to the uncertain handling of the car he experienced in 2014 until Barcelona.

"As for the pace, it was reasonable," said Vettel.

While happy with the Adrian Newey-penned RB10 overall, Red Bull is pushing engine supplier Renault to make further improvements.

In Spain, the team benefitted from a new blend of fuel supplied by Total.

"In the car itself you don't feel more power," said Vettel, "but we were not as vulnerable on the straight as usual, so I do think it gave us a bit."

But for the moment, he acknowledged that Mercedes is a long way ahead.

"They have a phenomenal engine, two very good drivers, a very good car, and a very good team, they're doing a good job so it would be wrong to complain and moan about how dominant they are.

"They worked better than everyone else in the winter and deserve to be in that position," Vettel added.

McLaren may test Honda power in 2014
(GMM) McLaren could be ready to test a Honda engine before the end of 2014.

That is the claim of team boss Eric Boullier, even though the Frenchman's immediate task after joining McLaren from Lotus is to win races with Mercedes power.

After a promising start, McLaren's season has slumped, and yet the newly-returned 'supremo' Ron Dennis is demanding race wins long before the switch to works Honda power.

"I know why he (Dennis) is saying it," said Jenson Button. "We have to be quicker this year if we want to be quick next year.

"We have to keep on pushing and will not let up, unlike maybe Mercedes once they have a 300 point lead," he smiled.

London newspaper The Times claims Boullier has been given "carte blanche" by Dennis to depart from traditional McLaren methods and "start again".

The highly-anticipated Honda era, meanwhile, may get an unexpectedly early start, with Boullier hinting the Japanese-made turbo V6 could get its first laps in Abu Dhabi at the end of the season.

"We have thought about it," said the Frenchman, referring to whether McLaren could immediately switch to Honda power for the post-race test after the Abu Dhabi finale in November.

"We are currently running a Mercedes engine until Abu Dhabi so we will not run anything else, but we have thought to maybe try the (Honda) car afterwards," added Boullier.

However, he dismissed the suggestion that – already without a title sponsor in 2014 – McLaren might as well write off this season in favor of the 2015 project.

"We definitely are not in a limbo year," he said.

"We are working just flat-out at Woking and a title sponsor doesn't change anything anyway as our budget is in place already.

"Obviously next year's power unit is another program but it is not affecting what we are doing at all," Boullier added.

Mattiacci: We have to step up a gear immediately
Following a less than inspiring performance at Barcelona, Ferrari's new boss states the blindingly obvious.

Of course, if one were cynical one could read something into the fact that in a brief piece on the team's official website Ferrari reminds us that Marco Mattiacci has been "a month in the role".

The Italian, who has probably felt every hour of that month, and who was noticeably low key over the course of the Barcelona weekend, used the opportunity to issue the usual ‘rallying cry'.

“Today, we are all aware of the situation in which we find ourselves and that we have to step up a gear immediately," he says. “At the same time, we are practical people who believe in hard work and we have set ourselves challenging goals.

"I like to talk facts and we have two extremely motivated and combative drivers," he continues, "as well as a cohesive working group, all of whom fully share and support the idea of delivering a new winning cycle."

In the moments following the Grand Prix Fernando Alonso looked decidedly demotivated, whilst Kimi Raikkonen grunted in response to a TV reporter’s question about strategy before storming off.

Skeptics claim that the decision to put two-time champ Alonso on a three-stop strategy which ultimately allowed him to finish ahead of his teammate, who had the advantage for much of the weekend, was more about the presence of top brass management from Santander.

Meanwhile, sections of the media continue to link Adrian Newey to the Maranello team even though the days when the design of a car rested entirely on one pair of shoulders are long gone.

Smedley calls for Massa investigation
Williams head of vehicle performance Rob Smedley has called on the team to investigate why Felipe Massa struggled with tire degradation so much in the Spanish Grand Prix.

Massa had looked quick all weekend but a mistake in qualifying left him ninth on the grid. He made up one position at the start but then dropped back through the field on a three-stop strategy to finish outside of the points while team-mate Valtteri Bottas had an impressive drive to fifth. Smedley said he was pleased with the result for Bottas but wants the team to learn how and why Massa had such contrasting fortunes.

“The cup is half full; well it's more than half full it's three quarters full," Smedley said. “We came here really waiting to see how much the upgrades were going to work and be successful. They've been ultimately very successful; a downforce track that is very, very difficult on the tires and it's not only downforce in qualifying, downforce becomes even more important in the race to look after tires and reduce the degradation.

“I think you saw that the car worked very well. It was the third quickest so ultimately we are very, very pleased with that. We dropped out of the points with Felipe and we just have to look in to that. I said to the guys that it's a priority now for the operations group – all the various analysis groups – to look in to what happened in his race and to ensure that we get to Monaco in the best shape."

Pushed on what the reason was for Massa's struggles, Smedley said he had no early indications as to the cause.

“Felipe has been incredibly quick over one lap all weekend, I think it's fair to say probably a little bit quicker than Valtteri. That gap reduced in qualifying and it would have been that maybe Felipe was 0.1s in front – something like that – a small gap, but then we suffered with degradation; more degradation than we did with Valtteri.

“I can't really give you more information than that because if I knew what the answer was we would have fixed it in the race and we didn't. So we need to go away now, that's why we've got more than 500 people at Williams.

“We need to go away and analyze and see exactly what happened, use all the skill sets that we have and understand from a fundamental point of view how one car was able to manage the tires and go longer on them and – while we were doing a three-stop for tactical reasons as well, it wasn't just for tire degradation – with Felipe obviously we used the tires a little bit more and he ended up with a lack of grip and struggling with the tires."

No reason to cancel Russia GP – Todt
(GMM) The FIA does not intend to cancel the inaugural Russian grand prix, according to the governing body's president Jean Todt.

Amid the Crimean crisis, the threat of war with Ukraine and escalating sanctions against Russia, it is feared formula one will not be able to race for the first time in Sochi later this year.

Indeed, the German touring car series DTM is currently re-thinking its Moscow round, and the superbike federation FIM has already cancelled a race.

But for the moment, F1 teams are simply relying on their government's travel advice when it comes to making plans for Russia.

"I think unless the British government advise otherwise and then from that obviously the FIA and FOM, then we are obliged to go, we are contracted to go," said John Booth, boss of the UK-based team Force India.

Any official cancelling of the Russian grand prix would have to be done formally by the FIA, and Todt insists that at the moment the race is on.

"At the moment there is no change to the calendar. Russia is on," the Frenchman told reporters.

"I am comfortable with what the FIM has done, but at the moment we don't have any reason to reconsider any race we have on the calendar," Todt added.

Witness backs bribery claims in Ecclestone trial
(GMM) Bernie Ecclestone's bribery trial appeared to turn a darker corner on Tuesday.

Last week in Munich, the F1 chief executive's fate appeared brighter, when the man whom Ecclestone allegedly bribed did not seem to clearly back the prosecutors' claims.

But when Gerhard Gribkowsky testified again on Tuesday, his latest tune was not as sweet for 83-year-old Ecclestone, who faces losing control of F1 and jail if ultimately found guilty.

Gribkowsky, then an employee for a state-controlled bank and therefore a public official, admitted what he was promised by Ecclestone influenced his behavior.

"Of course I was aware at that moment that I mentally moved to a certain extent to the side of Mr. Ecclestone," he told the court, according to Bloomberg.

"I grabbed the carrot. Afterwards, I didn't negotiate with the same toughness I had until then," added Gribkowsky, referring to the sale of BayernLB's commercial stake in F1.

Ecclestone's lawyer told the court he was "surprised" by Gribkowsky's apparent U-turn on Tuesday.

"We have to wait how many versions will still emerge and what we make of them," lawyer Norbert Scharf later told reporters.

Mateschitz doubts Red Bull can catch Mercedes
(GMM) With not yet a quarter of the season gone, Red Bull on Tuesday came close to conceding the 2014 title to Mercedes.

Earlier, team owner Dietrich Mateschitz suggested the reigning quadruple world champions are not giving up on 2014, despite Mercedes' clear dominance so far.

But on Tuesday he is quoted by the major German daily Bild: "We probably cannot catch up the advantage that Mercedes has.

In the constructors' battle, Mercedes is already more than 100 points clear of runner-up Red Bull, and billionaire Mateschitz conceded: "I don't think we can challenge the points lead.

"Even if we are winning (races) again, at the same time the others will still be scoring enough points so that their lead is not challenged," he added.

However, Mateschitz said Mercedes cannot be begrudged their likely success.

"Before the season, we did not work as well as Mercedes," he said. "I must ungrudgingly recognize when someone else does a sensational job."

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